Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin
has expressed deep grief over the death of his closest aide and the group’s vice chairman, Lee In-won.
According to Lotte Group, Shin received news of the passing of Lee, who apparently took his own life, at his office a little past 8 a.m.
“The news left him speechless and grief-stricken,” a Lotte official was quoted as saying in the report.
Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin
The 69-year-old was widely known as the second-in-command at Korea’s fifth-largest conglomerate. Since Lee joined Lotte in 1973, he has closely worked with group founder Shin Kyuk-ho and his son Shin Dong-bin, heading Lotte Shopping and the policy coordination unit, which is regarded as the retail giant’s control tower. In 2011, he advanced to the vice chairman post, making him the highest-ranking executive outside the founding Shin family.
“Chairman Shin Dong-bin is a great man, and I am sorry to leave early in this difficult situation,” Lee said in his suicide note found after his death.
According to police, Lee was found dead in an apparent suicide at a walking trail in Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi Province, after a local resident notified police at around 7:10 a.m.
Officials said they would carry out an autopsy to investigate the exact cause of death.
Lee was due to appear before prosecutors at 9.30 a.m. for questioning over the retail giant’s numerous charges, which include embezzlement and the creation of slush funds.
But the death of a key suspect, who was thought to have been well aware of Lotte Group’s irregularities, is expected to further impede the prosecutors’ probe.
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com